Learning the doggy game young
IT was a scene of tremendous youthful vitality at Tralee Track last Friday night, principally because a lot of families were celebrating the confirmation of their children (there was also a 50-strong party of German tourists).
For sure, the money which the then An Tanaiste, Dick Spring, helped to put the way of the Irish Greyhound Board to create the present stadium in 1997 has proved to be a wonderful investment in the town of Tralee, and, indeed, the county as a whole, and a lot of people, young and not so young, will continue to benefit from it long into the future.
The young kids just loved watching the greyhounds galloping around the track, though few of them would have been aware that very important business was being conducted – in the shape of first-round heats of an A1 570 sweepstake worth €2,750 to the winner and honouring the memory of Ardfert doggy couple, John and Mary Dowling, well known for the Killeacle prefix.
It had been hoped to secure 48 entries, but it does seem that the number of A1 class greyhounds out there isn't as great as hithertofore, or anything like it, and just 30 went to traps in five heats. Of those 30, just six failed to qualify for Round 2 this Friday night; with four qualifying from each heat plus the four fastest fifths.
As it so happened, the fastest run was produced in the very first heat by Ballyglen Tide, which simply bombed out of trap 3. Millridge Matt did threaten her strongly as the race progressed, but Ballyglen Tide had all the answers and actually extended her lead over him to four lengths at the line in 31.11, with a length back to Christys Prince.
The other winning times varied from 31.18 to 31.32 and the winner on 31.18 was Letmebelucky, which set herself up for victory in heat 2 with a blistering show of early pace from trap 1.
She was a clear leader off the first bend from Fire Height Hero and she wound up beating him by eight and-a-half lengths, with the rest of the field trailing home a long way behind after massive first-bend trouble.
On 31.21 in heat 4 was Barefoot Bandit, which was always well up with the pace and, after overtaking the front-running Killahas Tom rounding the last bend, he went on to score by two lengths from 5/4 favourite, Oneco Impact, with three-quarters of a length back to Clover Blue Boy, which was putting in his best work at the finish.
The remaining two heats were won in the identical time of 31.32, with a dead-heat materialising in one of them between Deancroft Millie and Rushmoor Grace. It was difficult to see Rushmoor Grace being caught turning for home, but Deancroft Millie finished with the proverbial wet sail to share the honours at the line, with a length and a half back to the fast-starting Beanos Ellie.
The other victory in 31.32 was achieved by Golf Walk, which impressively followed up on a sweepstake final victory at Curraheen Park the previous Saturday night.
He was actually held up on the back straight and the initiative was seriously conceded to Sullane Fluffy, but he showed that he was made of stern stuff by fighting back and shading the verdict on the line by a head from Sullane Fluffy, with two lengths back to Millridge Leader.
The fact that just 21 spots, or three lengths, separates all five heat winners is a clear indication that this is a very open sweepstake and it will be very, very interesting to see how things pan out in the second-round heats this Friday night.
Will Ballyglen Tide continue to be the leading contender? There is a very good chance that she will, but greyhounds like Golf Walk, in particular, are capable of doing faster clock and, really, it's hard to know just how things will unfold this Friday night.
Whatever happens, four terrific second-round heats are in prospect and the draw for them is as follows (trap order): Heat 1: Saleen Magic, Barefoot Bandit, Kiel Razzle, Coolavanny Angie, Sullane Fluffy, Millridge Leader. Heat 2: Golf Walk, Deancroft Millie, Letmebelucky, Fire Height Hero, Fermoyle Bolt, Clover Blue Boy Heat 3: Steeple Rd Luke, Deancroft Cash, Icandomagic, Ballyglen Tide, Rushmoor Grace, Beanos Ellie. Heat 4: Millridge Matt, West In Less, Oneco Impact, Killahas Tom, Christys Prince, Island Flyer.
Other winners last Friday night: Gentle Maeve, 18.02; Local Bolt, 29.38; Rushmoor Hope, 29.02; Droumeraghbridge, 18.11; Tyford Impact, 29.24.